Crises often see bad information spread faster than good. Denial and deception efforts are frequently employed to create confusion around events, obscuring the truth.
I observed the aftermath of the January 6 insurrection from a television studio on Constitution Avenue, right above the Capitol grounds. Many of those who attended the rally earlier that day stayed at my hotel on the edge of Georgetown.
The first step in learning from events is to understand the truth, separating fact from rumor. During and after Wednesday’s events, rumors quickly circulated online that the perpetrators of violence were really members of “Antifa” in disguise, donning Trump garb to make Trump supporters look bad. There is no evidence to support this.
Concurrently, those who committed acts of sedition and insurrection on Wednesday are not Republicans in any meaningful sense of the word. No legitimate Republican who believes in the values of our party would attack peace officers, invade a federal building, destroy and desecrate the Capitol, and do so while marching under the Confederate battle flag.
As Flashreport editor Jon Fleischman has observed, some of those who entered the Capitol were likely well meaning Trump supporters who just made a bad judgment call entering the building, and committed no other wrongdoing. Others were not so innocent.
The identification of many of those involved with this assault on American democracy is being facilitated by the fact so many were busily recording the events on their phones to post to social media platforms where they lurk. Let’s meet a few of them.
Lonnie Leroy Coffman of Falkville, Alabama was arrested and charged with weapons and explosives possession. According to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s office, Coffman was found in possession of multiple weapons and the materials for 11 molotov cocktails in his red pickup truck parked near the Capitol.
Larry Brock, Jr. of Dallas, Texas has admitted to being the man pictured on the floor of the Senate during the insurrection dressed in combat gear and holding ziptie handcuffs. He gave an interview to Ronan Farrow of the New Yorker. He is a former Air Force officer who appears to have been radicalized.
Jenny Cudd, a failed mayoral candidate from Midland, Texas posted video and pictures before, during and after the insurrection in which she participated. “…we did, as I say that, we did break down Nancy Pelosi’s office door and someone stole her gavel and took a picture sitting in the chair flipping off the camera, and that was on Fox News,” she says in one video. She bragged about flying to Washington in a private plane to “storm the Capitol.”
Paul Davis is a North Texas lawyer who until this week was associate general counsel and director of human resources at Goosehead Insurance. He posted video of himself participating in the insurrection on Goosehead’s Instagram account. Mr. Davis is also not a member of Antifa. As of this writing he has neither been arrested nor charged with a crime. He has been fired from his insurance company job.
Richard Barnett of Gravette, Arkansas was arrested by FBI agents Friday for his participation in the insurrection. He faces numerous federal charges. Barnett, apparently oblivious to the problems involved with self-incrimination, gave an interview to the New York Times after he was photographed breaking into the Speaker’s office. “I wrote her a nasty note, put my feet up on her desk and scratched my balls,” he said. Mr. Barnett is not a member of Anfita.
Jake Angeli of Arizona was widely photographed shirtless and wearing a horned helmet during the storming of the Capitol. Known as the “Qanon Shaman,” he is an adherent of the Qanon conspiracy theory. He was arrested Friday.
Now meet Derrick Evans, a member of the West Virginia House of Delegates with profoundly bad judgment. He shot video of himself storming the Capitol building and is under arrest. Mr. Evans, like the others who have been arrested or identified, is not a member of Antifa. In fact, as of this writing, of the 13 seditionists arrested thus far, none of them are known to have any connection to Antifa.
Ashli Babbitt is the woman who was tragically shot and killed as she and others attempted to break through doors leading to the House chambers. Bellingcat has a well-researched investigative piece illustrating how this former Obama voter and Air Force veteran was radicalized into the QAnon conspiracy crowd online.
Make no mistake that violence from the radical left including people affiliated with Antifa is unacceptable and those responsible for any violence or lawbreaking must be held accountable, regardless of their political beliefs. It is equally true that while people connected to Antifa committed violent acts elsewhere this year, the violence we saw at the Capitol was not. Likewise, the plot uncovered by the FBI to take over the Michigan capital building and kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer earlier this year was organized by various white supremacists who have since been arrested.
Several years ago I took an interest in understanding the objectives of the Russian information warfare aimed at exacerbating social tensions in America. It has since been well documented the Putin regime sees paralyzing America with race riots and instability as a central part of their strategy to keep America off balance. Their tactics involve promoting the radicalization of people on all sides, hardening positions, and inciting violence. While we cannot easily measure the degree to which their efforts have directly impact the current state of affairs, we can absolutely conclude the riots earlier this year, and the insurrection in the US Capitol, are consistent with those objectives.
Getting our country back on the right path means isolating the violent extremes on all sides. I refuse to use terms like “left” and “right” in this discussion because I do not have anything in common with any violent extremist on any side. White supremacists, Antifa radicals, and others prone to violence and discord must be walled off from our mainstream political parties so we can once again have political debate and discussion with our opponents without turning them into enemies.
Ron Nehring served as Chairman of the California Republican Party, the Republican Party of San Diego County, and Presidential campaign spokesman for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX).